“An integrated series of new connections, from streets and sidewalks to bike paths and pedestrian trails, are essential to the successful development of the Delaware Riverfront.”
Rina Cutler, deputy mayor for transportation and utilities, City of Philadelphia
Every Philadelphian should have access to our rivers. More than sixty thousand people live within a ten-minute walk of the central Delaware River, but fences, I-95, vacant properties and blight make the river a very difficult destination to reach (33). Insufficient sidewalks, bike lanes, paths and crosswalks discourage all but the most fearless pedestrian or biker from traveling to the river. Philadelphia can and should guarantee public access to the river by passing a zoning requirement that all new developments must provide convenient, safe public access to the river from the nearest public street. Pennsylvania already requires owners who lease state-owned riparian land to ensure public access to the river. The requirement could be met through the creation of safe paths designed exclusively for pedestrians and cyclists, sidewalks bordering an existing public or private road or a new road designed to accommodate cars, pedestrians and cyclists.
A safe, secure and comfortable system allowing pedestrians and cyclists to travel along existing roads to the central Delaware riverfront is also essential. Many existing roads in the central Delaware were built for cars and do not provide bike lanes and adequate sidewalks for cyclists and pedestrians. The reason for this is simple: in the past, it was an industrial area that needed freight rail and trucks and had little or no demand for recreational access. Providing sidewalks and bike lanes will help residents walk and bike to the river, lessen congestion by providing an alternative to short car trips and improve the attractiveness of the area to new residents and businesses.
Actions must be taken to increase the safety of pedestrians and cyclists traveling on the highway-like Delaware Avenue/Columbus Boulevard and throughout the area. Delaware Avenue/Columbus Boulevard poses the greatest challenge to a walkable and bikeable central Delaware, as it is currently a wide, high-speed, congested road with three to four car lanes in each direction. East-west streets that connect neighborhoods to the riverfront must also be able to accommodate Philadelphians on foot and on bike.
Simple enhancements at intersections such as widened sidewalks and more visible crosswalks can significantly improve pedestrian connectivity at the river's edge.
Here are some of the ways in which this can be accomplished:
Early progress along the riverfront could serve as a demonstration project for bike-friendly initiatives. Improvements should include (1) the addition of safe bike lanes to portions of Delaware Avenue/Columbus Boulevard that lack them, (2) the addition of bike lanes to one or two east-west roads that will improve access from Center City and nearby neighborhoods to the north(35a), (3) the enforcement of parking restrictions to prevent cars from parking in existing bike lanes and (4) the installation of bike racks for cyclists along Delaware Avenue/Columbus Boulevard to allow more people to bike to the river and stop at various destinations during the course of a ride.
In the longer term, a full analysis of the area should be completed, one that examines needed improvements in safety and in pedestrian and bicyclist access. This analysis could be a part of either the master-planning process or the city Pedestrian and Bicycle Plan already underway (36). Also in the longer term, as the civic vision is implemented, all street extensions should include bike lanes and wide pedestrian sidewalks.
A "green street" in Denver includes tree plantings and stormwater retention gardens.
Along the central portion of Seattle's waterfront, extended streets provide frequent public access to the water's edge.
BENEFITS TO CITY AND IMPACT ON CITY BUDGET OF IMPROVING PEDESTRIAN AND BICYCLE ACCESS TO THE RIVER
Economic: Allows customers to reach riverfront retail and entertainment destinations, reduces number of public parking spaces needed and improves public health through exercise.
Environmental: Encourages residents to walk or bike rather than driving to river; reduces traffic and pollution.
Community: Transforms riverfront into neighborhood and citywide asset, reduces pedestrian injuries and encourages people to travel by bike and on foot.
Impact on City Budget: The costs of pedestrian and bicycle improvements vary. To restripe a crosswalk at an intersection costs approximately $10,000 (37). To create a median island costs about $15,000 (38). Putting in a new concrete sidewalk costs $50 to $60 for 12 feet or 3 square yards (39). Pedestrian lighting (including foundation, wiring, installation and fixture) costs about $10,000 per light. Overhead lights without a pole or foundation cost about $3,000 per light (40).
OTHER CITIES HAVE DONE IT--WE CAN, TOO
Since 1992, New York City has required every large-scale waterfront property to provide public access (41). Seattle made a priority of improving conditions for cyclists and pedestrians by completing a Bicycle Master Plan in 2007 and a Pedestrian Master Plan in 2008. In accordance with the plan, Seattle added miles of new bike lanes, constructed two new bike trails and improved two hundred curb ramps and 750 crosswalks throughout the city to encourage residents to bike. It worked. Bicycle commuters have increased by 600 percent since 1992. Today, six thousand cyclists travel daily. The city has also built blocks of new sidewalks and repaired existing sidewalks in order to encourage residents to walk (42). Chicago added a hundred miles of bike lanes and ten thousand bike racks to create a more sustainable city (43).
Battery Park City, NY
Congestion Mitigation and Air Quality (CMAQ) (PennDOT and DVRPC) funds projects that reduce air pollutants from transportation-related sources. Funding approved for 2006 funding cycle ranged from $20,000 to $20 million.
Transportation, Community and System Preservation Program (TCSP) (FHWA): A total of $270 million is authorized for this program through 2009 for projects that improve the efficiency of the U.S. transportation system, reduce the environmental effects of transportation and ensure efficient access to jobs, services and centers of trade. Program has funded essential pedestrian and bicycle upgrades.
Trump Tower and Penn Treaty Tower riparian lease agreement: Under the state’s riparian land lease, Trump and Penn Treaty Towers must dedicate 50 cents for every square foot of building space to implementing the Civic Vision for the Central Delaware.
Four percent of gross casino revenues are specified by the Commonwealth’s Gaming Act to offset increased city operating costs for managing the impact of the casinos on transportation, the police, and the health, safety and social welfare of areas surrounding the casinos.